Rory MacDonald (PFL)

PFL 2021 7 Preview and Predictions

After over a month without an event, the PFL is back in action this Friday with PFL 2021 7. The event marks the beginning of the playoffs in the lightweight and welterweight divisions.

The event will be headlined by longtime UFC standout and former Bellator champion Rory MacDonald opposite 2019 PFL welterweight title winner Ray Cooper III. Neither man’s last fight went as expected, with MacDonald losing a controversial split decision to Gleison Tibau. Cooper stepped on the scale over the welterweight limit at 171.8 pounds. A victory on Friday will not only right the ship for the victor, but also sets them up with a spot in the welterweight tournament final.

The co-main event is the other welterweight semifinal bout as Magomed Magomedkerimov meets Sadibou Sy. Magomedkerimov won the 2018 PFL welterweight championship but was unable to defend that title in 2019 due to injury. He looks to get one step closer to reclaiming that title when he takes on Sweden’s Sy. Sy comes into this fight after defeating Alexey Kunchenko by unanimous decision. He is a late replacement as an alternate for the injured Joao Zerifino.


The lightweight semifinals will also take place with Clay Collard taking on Raush Manfio and Loik Radzhabov meeting Alexander Martinez. These men will all be competing to take the title twice claimed by Natan Schulte, who missed the playoffs this year.

The event will take place on Friday, Aug. 13 inside the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The event will begin at 5:30 p.m. ET on ESPN+. The main card follows at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN 2.

Rory MacDonald heads into the playoffs sporting a 1-1 record since joining the PFL; does he advance by defeating 2019 welterweight champion Ray Cooper III?

Yes. It is quite possible that there were only two people in the world who thought Gleison Tibau beat MacDonald in their recent fight. Unfortunately for MacDonald, those two people happened to be judges. Against Cooper this Friday, MacDonald will leave no doubts and render the judges’ scorecards useless by picking up a submission victory.

As impressive as Cooper has looked, if there is one area where he has shown to be susceptible it is submission grappling. Four of his seven losses has come by submission, including his 2018 loss in the welterweight final.

As is often the case with two fighters at such an elite level, the difference comes down to game plan and how well it is executed. MacDonald is a longtime pupil of Firas Zahabi at Tristar Gym in Montreal. Zahabi has finely tuned MacDonald’s skillset and his is well versed in all aspects of MMA.

He can turn his opponent’s weakness into his strength. This will be the case this weekend when MacDonald will avoid the thunderous power of Cooper by getting the fight to the mat. He’ll close the deal with a submission before the close of the second round.

Magomed Magomedkerimov has not lost in his last 12 fights; does Sadibou Sy have what it takes to stop that winning streak?

He does not. Magomedkerimov has looked unstoppable in recent fights and that will continue as he makes his way into the welterweight final. He is a well-rounded fighter, as shown by his 10 finishes by submission and 10 victories by knockout.

There is no area in this fight where Sy will have a clear advantage. “The Swedish Denzel Washington” will try to keep this fight standing as long as possible, but he won’t be able to stay upright long. Once the fight gets to the canvas, Magomedkerimov will quickly advance position and secure the mount. Sy will be forced to give up his back in order to avoid heavy ground and pound. From there, Magomedkerimov will lock in a rear-naked choke to pick up his 11th career victory by submission.

Clay Collard has won both of his fights in the PFL by decision; does he get his first stoppage victory when he takes on Raush Manfio?

No. Not only will Collard not get a stoppage, he won’t pick up the win in this contest. This is a very compelling match-up with each man holding a win over former UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis inside the PFL cage. With Collard’s boxing pedigree, expect him to have an advantage on the feet, but the grappling edge will lie with Manfio.

Expect Manfio to take advantage of Collard putting a lot of weight on his front leg in a boxing stance in order to secure a takedown and keep Collard on his back. Collard will make adjustments in his corner between rounds, but he won’t have the spring in his step to avoid takedowns. Manfio will ultimately cruise to a decision victory and a spot in the lightweight final.

Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?

Olivier Aubin-Mercier vs. Darrell Horcher. Both UFC veterans have rebounded nicely since exiting the promotion. Aubin-Mercier picked up a win over Marcin Held in his PFL debut. Horcher won his first post-UFC fight by defeating Vadim Ogar at CFFC 91. Horcher comes into this fight as a replacement for Natan Schulte, but this will be an entertaining fight with Aubin-Mercier ultimately picking up the decision nod.

Fight Pick
Main Card, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN 2)
WW: Rory MacDonald vs. Ray Cooper III MacDonald
WW: Sadibou Sy vs. Magomed Magomedkerimov Magomedkerimov
LW: Clay Collard vs. Raush Manfio Manfio
LW: Loik Radzhabov vs. Alexander Martinez Radzhabov
Preliminary Card, 5:30 p.m. ET (ESPN+)
WW: Curtis Millender vs. Gleison Tibau Tibau
LW: Olivier Aubin-Mercier vs. Darrell Horcher Aubin-Mercier
WW: Brett Cooper vs. Tyler Hill Cooper
WW: Magomed Umalatov vs. Micah Terrill Umalatov
WW:Kyron Bowen vs. Michael Lombardo Lombardo
LW: Hopeton Stewart vs. Elvin Espinoza Stewart